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Alien Outpost

Jabbar Raisani's genre mash-up combines the intimacy of a war documentary with the battle of a sci-fi actioner

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The press notes for Alien Outpost say that the pitch for this sci-fi/war actioner was a mash-up of Restrepo and Battle: L.A. That's a fair description, as Jabbar Raisani's film combines the mordant humor and institutional futility depicted in the 2010 documentary about a remote Army outpost in Afghanistan with the blast-'em action of a troops-vs.-aliens B-film.

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Set in 2031, the nearly forgotten Outpost 37 — in the DMZ between Afghanistan and Pakistan — is tasked with rooting out and killing the remaining invading aliens, who are holed up in the remote area. The haphazardly supplied and fortified outpost is also under attack from angry local tribes. (Allusions to the real-life ever-winding-down conflict in this area are frequent and undoubtedly intentional.)

Viewers arrive with three new soldiers, and a documentary crew of two, whose cameras provide the sole footage of unfolding events. (Useful background comes by way of intertitles and interviews with the soldiers.) Practical jokes and goat barbecues quickly fall away as the outposters confront a new alien attack strategy that exploits the soldiers' best human instincts.

The soldier-doc half of Outpost is stronger than the alien action, and while I respect Raisani's efforts to meld them, each section often compromised the other: Just as I got to know an individual soldier, an alien attack reduced them all to interchangeable screaming guys I didn't care about. But, in the future, when they study the War on Terror on Film, this will likely be one of the more entertaining features.

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